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Another Denver dog gets a reprieve after being wrongly designated as a pit bull

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The debate over Denver's pit bull ban is typically characterized as a never-ending argument over whether the breed is inherently dangerous or unfairly maligned between stubborn, closed-minded politicians (who argue the former) and fanatical pit bull advocates (the latter). But the real issue is whether Denver should continue with an enforcement policy that is inherently unenforceable.

Consider the case of Mufasia:

After escaping from its owner's home in southwest Denver, the ten-month-old boxer-mix was impounded by Denver Animal Control. Several lawsuits over the pit bull ban have forced Denver to establish a Byzantine process for determining whether a dog fits the physical criteria for being a pit bull, including a checklist review by three separate employees.

Despite protests by owner Amee Blauwkamp that her dog was a boxer-mix, Mufasia was determined to be a pit bull, which meant the dog faced possible euthanization unless a new home could be found outside of city limits. But instead, Blauwkamp challenged the designation with the help of the Wheat Ridge-based Animal Law Center. And after hearing testimony February 3 from outside dog-breed experts, a Denver hearing officer determined that Mufasia was, in fact, not a pit bull.

This isn't the first time that Denver's animal control officials have screwed the pooch in making supposedly fail-proof breed-ban assessments. In 2009, Westword wrote about a similar case involving Dexter, a four-year-old mutt that was confiscated from the back yard of a Denver residence and deemed to be a pit bull until a hearing officer tossed out the determination.

Both instances show how difficult -- and, in some cases, impossible -- it is for animal control staff to make these types of judgment calls when a dog is mixed with so-called bully breeds such as boxers, bulldogs and Bull Mastiffs, all of which are perfectly legal to own in Denver. Want to dig into more stories about Denver's pit bull ban? Check out "Public Enemy #1," "3,497 dead dogs," and "Pit bull service dogs."

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